Keeper of Stories

067As a therapist who specializes in deployment, I find myself in the position of Keeper of Stories.  Week after week, soldier after soldier trusts me to offer them a shoulder, an ear, a safe place to just “be”. It is a sacred job, to just hold the space for them. After so many years as a therapist, it is impossible to be shocked with the content of people’s personal stories anymore. The responsibility of keeper of stories that took place in the theater of war is a big one.  From time to time I have to take a step back and seek my own sacred space in order to shed the stories and refresh my soul so that I can process the new ones awaiting me at my next session. I am grateful for my family and my yoga teachers who facilitate that process for me just by allowing me to keep to myself. My son, a SSgt. on a permanent rotation in the middle east once told me that “some stories can never be told mom“. So the silences between the soldiers and I become just as sacred as the stories themselves.


Practice What You Preach

This is an old post I never published.  I don’t know why.  So I’m publishing it now.

Another unsettling dream for this military mom visited me in my sleep on Friday evening.  My son parachuting out of  a plane in his dress blues onto an American beach.  At least there was some comedy involved.  As far as I know, he’s not parachuting out of a plane onto U.S. beaches in his dress blues.  And as far as I know, the planes don’t look like a sardine can.  Yes, I know, at least I was able to frame the whole thing into a strange comedy in my altered state. The rest of it was a little disturbing, but rather than dwell on that part, I chuckled my way into the kitchen in an attempt to sketch the sardine plane, drank some  water, snuggled both pups and returned to bed when I felt tired enough to sleep again.

Part of my new “sleep hygiene” routine that is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that I’m trying on myself in an effort to sleep better, so that I can teach it ethically to others. If I can’t live it, I can’t really teach it to clients.

I wait for his next communication all weekend, the weekend is over and it doesn’t come.  The last was Thursday. Unsettling.  So I zenned up and made him brownies with bourbon and bacon in them to go in his box tomorrow. I posted it on his Facebook page along with a hint that mother’s day was coming and that there were LOTS of women who cared about him that he could shop for on line during his down time.  This always gets a chuckle out of him, because he’s just not a shopper and he rarely gets “down time”.

When I wake up in a few short hours, the post will be there and if I’m lucky, he’ll be there too.

I could not report the lost children of this war this week or last week.  I plan to do a special posting as a tribute to them later this week.  I simply didn’t have it in me to do more than read their names and say a prayer for their families.  Tomorrow I will make my way to the post office to send another box, which assures me that he’s there, he’s safe and waiting to tear into it and share it with his buddies.

Cold & Lonely

After a wonderful 3 days with my son awhile ago, I said goodbye again. Spending the evening with highly decorated service members telling me how much they appreciated my son’s work was one of the proudest moments of my life. Writing about zenning up as a military parent hasn’t been as therapeutic as it once was. I’ve been frozen at the keyboard, erasing everything that I write because even basic Information is too sensitive to share, even when our loved ones leave and come back in is too sensitive to discuss on the blog. So I’m finding my comfort in providing counseling services to our military through my practice as a therapist. I feel like I’m actually doing something, something honest and true to help these families. I miss my son. Last message from him was about the lousy weather. So of course I’ve spent the last few days feeling that lousy weather right along with him. I always take on the feelings of my kids. When my daughter gets sick, I feel her symptoms even though I’m not sick. When my son is tired, the fatigue I feel is overwhelming. He never states that he’s tired, but I can hear it in his voice. I worry. This time more than others. Praying more than usual. Through my work with the military I’ve learned so much. Too much. So now, I’m left to worry from a different perspective. Zenning up has taken on a whole new meaning this year. My son was able to see my granddaughters for a quick minute before he left. They adore him, just look at these faces. He has to come home safe for them. He just has to. alley and the girls Peace, love and little donuts.

We begin it all over again

I can’t help but get choked up every time I hear our national anthem played before a football game.  The addition of a flyover gives me goosebumps to boot.  Our family has had the advantage of extra time with our airman this summer and fall.  I know it is coming to an end too soon but am grateful that he’s had a moment to catch his breath and lead a somewhat normal life.

Leading a somewhat normal life, included totaling his beloved Subaru on his way home from the base, only 2 miles away. He was only slightly injured but decided not to call me until he had been released from the hospital.  How ironic is it that he does two tours in the middle east in 1 year and ends up getting hurt on a short commute home because another driver decided they needed that extra 20 seconds to pull out in front of him.

As we begin our countdown, my restful summer slumber is beginning to be interrupted by the worry of sending him back to a place even more corrupt than when he left.  With news of an increase in shootings by middle east soldiers on our troops, I wonder how this deployment will feel differently than the others.  Is he worried?  If he was he certainly wouldn’t share it.   I’ll wrap my arms around my boy in early on this winter and see him off again, this time with more stripes on his arm and a brand new commitment to serve another 4 years.   I wonder what the next four years will be like for the military after this election plays out.

Ironically I’ll be in D.C. on election day.  I have no idea how I feel about the candidates.  I’m numbed by the ads, felt little satisfaction about supporting either candidate after the debates.

Election day for me will be spent in Arlington paying tribute to the fallen.  I can’t avoid Arlington any longer. This is the year that I don’t flake out on the men and women who made it possible for me to cast my vote.  A vote that was particularly difficult this time around.

Peace, love and little donuts….next report will be from Arlington.

Reality Bites

A flurry of text messages leaves me numb this evening as I realize that the cycle of deployment is beginning again for us. Not being at liberty to discuss exits and entries and job duties leaves me pretty much alone in the cycle. I can only say that the bliss of summer safety for this family is abruptly coming to a close sooner than my heart and I were ready.

He returns there a higher rank than when he left. More responsibility. He’s making plans for a vacation upon his return. I find peace in his planning. I feel safer when there’s someone in his life to share his plans. I take more time to pack her care package for shipment than his because the energy is so different. Moisturizer, granola (takes her longer to get her care packages) no beef jerkey, a meditation, a women’s magazine. A different energy.

I am grateful for the gifts of my new life since his last deployment. Some are results of my having created them. Most have gracefully fallen into my world because I was more open to receiving them. I have hope that my energy has shifted into an acceptance of the continuing deployment cycle in part due to the loving work environment that my family and I have created. More support, less toxicity = a level of acceptance for his choice to remain in his current position with the military. Another round of meditations, more yoga, baking bread from scratch, service to my local community and good old fashioned hard work. This is my recipe for this military mom withstanding another round of middle east deploymentland.

Peace, love and little donuts,


One Death Every Day in Afghanistan

Today I played coward in olympic fashion.  Last week I was told about a military family in Troy, Illinois that would be receiving the Silver Star for their fallen child’s bravery.  I asked my husband to run the race for the scholarship fund and gave him orders that we WOULD be attending this service together  in an effort to show that family that we care about their sacrifice.  I shared his story with my son, I posted the scholarship fund information on my Facebook page and I made plans to go.   But I didn’t go.  By the time labor day came and went,  I had already decided that I was too emotionally chick S–t to attend.  Instead I went to the art fair and  looked at art that I couldn’t afford and stayed in complete denial to what was happening a few miles away across the river.

Many of the wounded from the 10th Air Support Operations Squadron marched for one week from Fort Riley, Kansas to Troy in order to present the Silver Star Medal to Bradley Smith’s wife Tifany and other family members.  Bradley Smith was the age that my son is now when he died.  In January of 2010 he left behind a new baby and a family and community that adored him.

Over the next few hours I’ll stay in denial of what the Smith family is enduring grieving their beloved son.  I’ll stay in denial by watching the end of the MIZZOU game rather than watching the 10:00 news.  Denial is working for me this week as 9/11 creeps its way into my line of vision again.  9/11 was a difficult day for me last year.  My husband patiently let me sob into his shoulder as we watched 3000 flags wave in Forest Park thinking about what my son was doing thousands of miles away.

My beloved son is home safe and sound this 9/11, as he attends the mandatory leadership training that elevates him to nco status.  But in a few short weeks its back to the middle east and the cycle of deployment begins again.  When will it end?

The Silver Star is awarded for “Gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States” 

My heros quiet birthday

27 years ago today I gave birth to a warrior. My hero is spending his birthday getting ready for a possible evacuation.  We chuckled on the phone today for nearly 2 hours discussing birthday hurricanes, the complications and bliss of a good relationship with the opposite sex, and what constitutes a good vacation.  But then the conversation turned serious as we discussed the personal losses that come along with war.  We ended our conversation discussing the beauty and simplicity of a minimalist lifestyle.  Something that deployment offers.  You can’t take much with you, and when you get there, you are sharing a very small space with other people.  A hard toilet becomes a very nice thing.

When you move a lot, you get very good at living with less. He and I moved a lot when he was in his teens.  We got good at it, but we never really accepted it as part of the journey that would mold us into the human beings that we later became. We found it inconvenient and messy and full of grief and loss every time we endured it.

Easily detaching from our “things”  became easier every time we made a move as we downsized our life so that we could afford an out of state college without having to work 3 jobs.  Two jobs each felt like quite enough for the both of us.  Six years ago, as I was faced with making a decision to accept a travel position that paid extremely well or work for a non-profit, HE made the decision to join the military, which allowed us both an opportunity to exhale from the financial responsibilities of college.  It caused us to take another deep breath of another sort.  This decision launched him into adulthood at lightening speed and me into a guilt trip of epic proportions.  His decision to leave college and go into the military still haunts me.  I second guessed every decision I had ever made and wondered that if perhaps I had just settled for an easy life of a married lady who lunches when he was younger, if he would be the man he is right now that I am so proud of.   Would he have failed to launch?  Would he be working in the financial industry floating from job to job eventually landing on my couch due to the current economy?  The answer is probably no.  The journey would have been different, but he would still be the leader he is right now, the stage would just be more sane for him.  I couldn’t be prouder of him than I am right now, nor more supportive of his decision to carry on in his current role, as dangerous as that it is.  He will have many, many more healthy, happy birthdays…………I pray for that each night.

“What we think about, we become”.   Earl Nightingale, the strangest secret

Peace love and little donuts and tonight, red velvet cake!

Military zen mom